Can Debt Collectors Steal Your Stimulus Check?
Yes, debt collectors CAN take your stimulus check, and they appear to be grabbing stimulus funds in order to satisfy people’s past debts. It appears to be legal due to the way Congress set up the stimulus check program — but as Dan Caplinger reports in this piece, it also threatens to undermine the entire point of the program, which was to rush cash to hard-hit Americans so that they could cover their current expenses during this pandemic. The issue is millions of people owe certain kinds of debt for which creditors can garnish bank accounts. That includes just about any type of debt on which collection proceedings have advanced far enough for creditors to get a court judgment. When debt collectors present banks with garnishment orders, banks follow procedures that often include freezing accounts.
Lawmakers could have specifically designated the stimulus payments as exempt from garnishment or debt collection proceedings but didn’t include such clear provisions in the CARES Act, leaving the matter up to legal interpretation. That ambiguity set the stage for debt collectors to act — and they’re acting quickly. State legislators are working fast to address it, as state laws govern much of the legal framework around debt collection. Caplinger notes two steps people facing this situation can do NOW to get around garnishment. Full article here.